Palestine is the Muslim and Arab half of the Holy Land. After visiting Jerusalem, we harvest olives near Ramallah, follow pilgrims to the place of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, approach Abraham's tomb - as both Jews and Muslims do - in Hebron, drop in on friends for dinner, and bob in the Dead Sea. We'll also learn about walls, Israeli settlements, and the challenges facing this region.
Exploring Italy's most remote and romantic stretch of Riviera, we visit five tiny port towns: dramatic Vernazza, surrounded by vineyards; reclusive Corniglia, high on its bluff; pastel Manarola; hardscrabble Riomaggiore; and the pint-sized resort of Monterosso. Fishing for anchovies, sipping wine out of rustic barrels, and savoring twinkling Mediterranean vistas, we enjoy the ultimate Riviera adventure.
In the shadow of Venice, we visit three great cities. Padua is famed for its venerable university, precious Giotto frescoes, and pilgrim-packed Basilica. Verona is a hit with aficionados of Roman ruins and Romeo and Juliet fans. And Ravenna, with its shimmering mosaics, was once the western bastion of the Byzantine Empire. We enliven each stop with a tasty dose of Italian dolce vita.
Europe's best-preserved 17th-century city, Amsterdam is quaint and jarring, traditional and modern. Filled with history and happy-go-lucky, it's a delight to explore. Uniquely entertaining Amsterdam shows us Rembrandts and Van Goghs, more bikes than cars, flirting prostitutes, and pot-filled coffeeshops - all under tall, skinny facades leaning out below quaint church towers.
By train, bike, and boat, we visit the top Dutch sights outside of Amsterdam: from Haarlem to Rotterdam, and from Delft to the Zuiderzee. Along the way, we enjoy charming towns with fragrant cheese markets, soggy polderland, mighty dikes, and windmills both new and old. Rolling through the Netherlands and connecting with its people, you can't help but think, "Everything's so... Dutch!"
The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is the best-preserved Baroque city in Central Europe. We experience its massive castle, beloved statue-lined bridge, evocative Jewish Quarter, and thrilling 20th-century history while enjoying its infectious love of music and perhaps the best beer in Europe. With a beautifully preserved Old Town, Prague deserves its nickname: the Golden City of a Hundred Spires.
A tumultuous 20th century left Berlin filled with powerful sights - from evocative memorials, to surviving bits of its communist and fascist days, to its glass-domed Reichstag. We enjoy its now-trendy east side, its people-friendly riverfront, and its vibrant social scene. Reunited Berlin - perhaps the fastest changing and most happening city in Europe - is entertaining more visitors than ever.
We start in Jerusalem, alive with religious tradition and passion - Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. We then visit cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, with its in-love-with-life beaches; ponder the sad fortress of Masada; and join pilgrims at biblical sights around the Sea of Galilee. We'll also pay our respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, drop into an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and savor the local cuisine.
Siena, once a proud and independent city-state, retains its confidence and unique traditions. Rick enjoys a front-row seat at its wild horse race - the venerable Palio - and marvel at cultural treasures from the days when Siena rivaled Florence for leadership of Tuscany. Then he heads into wine country for a little dolce vita under the Tuscan sun.
The quintessence of charming England is the "West Country": quaint Cotswold villages with their fine churches, manor homes, and gastropubs; Wells, England's smallest cathedral town; and the New Age capital of Glastonbury, with its legends of the Holy Grail and King Arthur. He finishes by pondering the dramatic prehistoric stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury.
Arcing along the southeast coast of England, Rick travels from Canterbury (with its famous cathedral) to Dover (stoutly fortified from Roman times to the Battle of Britain). Then he hikes the trails that top the towering chalk cliffs of the South Downs, wander into the beachy resort of Brighton (England's Coney Island), and push on to Portsmouth, whose naval heritage has left it with the best collection of historic sailing ships anywhere.
The far southwest of England is a world unto itself, with a persistent Cornish culture. He explores a world of flowers springing from towering hedges, a tin-mining heritage going back to biblical times, salty pirates' towns and fishing villages, and the Land's End of England. Then, side-tripping deep into the vast and mysterious Dartmoor National Park, he hikes to forgotten stone circles and chase wild ponies.
The heartland of England has sights that put the "Great" in Britain - its venerable universities, its royal heritage, and reminders of its industrial might. At Oxford and Cambridge, see where kings and prime ministers studied. At Blenheim Palace - Winston Churchill's birthplace - Rick connects with English aristocracy. At Ironbridge Gorge, he fires up memories of the Industrial Revolution. And all along the way, Rick drives on the left and polishes his pub etiquette.
Lisbon, built with the riches of Portugal's New World discoveries, has a rustic charm. Great navigators are remembered. Rick eats lots of cod, enjoys pastries hot out of the oven, strolls the city's back lanes and its reinvigorated waterfront, marvels at an exquisite church built with spice taxes, and listens to some soulful fado music. Then he takes a side-trip to Sintra to explore the fanciful castles of Portuguese royalty and climbs hilltop ramparts with grand views.
Portugal has an oversized history, fascinating culture, and boatloads of sardines. Saving the capital city of Lisbon for another episode, Rick dances on the beach at Nazare, marvels at a medieval abbey in Batalha, visits a royal library and revels with university students in Coimbra, savors port wine with the people who made it along the Douro River, and gets to know Portugal's gritty and fascinating second city, Porto.
Setting sail on the Mediterranean, Rick explores the ins and outs and pros and cons of cruising. He learns how to get the most out of a cruise, and exercises his independence to make smart use of limited time on shore by planning well, avoiding lines, and eating quick-but-local meals on the go. Along with the joys and efficiencies of cruising, Rick considers the downsides, including the inevitable congestion and commercialism that comes with mass tourism.